Give Yourself an Out

Had a great question come into my eMail.  What's the hardest thing about coaching your own kids?  Whether boy or girl being coached, Mom or Dad doing the coaching, we tend to do it out of a couple of primary drivers.  One, we have so much love for our kids that we want to spend this time around them and Two, we are competitive in nature ourselves and it's another outlet for us to feed that beast.  When coaching kids we need to remember that this time... this team is theirs.  We're the coach, but the team is theirs.  The wins are theirs, the losses are theirs, and we're lucky enough to share in the fun.

The two drivers above tend to collide right on top of our child.  While we coach the whole team, I always found that even if it was just a constant flow of well intended advice or corrections, we often "over-coach" our own.  My daughter was a pitcher and thus I found myself sitting on a bucket some 40 feet away from her every inning, spewing coaching wisdom.  Some 15 - 20 times an inning I have the opportunity to tell her exactly what she's doing wrong and provide a correction on how to fix it.  Imagine that on top of game strategy and of course the requisite cheering!  That scenario is ripe for over-coaching and I was at high risk of taking all of the fun out of the game for her. 

One day after a particularly hard game, I saw the smile leave her face.  I saw the fun disappear.  And we WON that game!  I couldn't understand why it wasn't any fun for her.  We won!  Luckily for me, she shared with me it was too much.  The constant correction the whole game was too much.  I was providing too many things to think about and I was invading the game she was trying to play with her friends.  It was too much, "us".  So we put in place a new strategy.  We gave her an "out". 

If I was getting too much into her head.  If I was "over-coaching", she merely had to calmly look at me, maybe even give me a knowing smile, and hold the brim of her visor with her fingers.  Then, with no one else knowing anything, without her seeming to disrespectfully yell back at me we both knew it. That was our little secret way to say, "it's time to shut up and  let me play, Coach".  Over time, she found ways to make me laugh with little looks along with it.  It was our way to make sure I gave her back her space to play, and it worked like a charm. 

So talk to your child about it.  Share why you know you are at risk.  They can't fault you for your love to win,  of the game, and of them.  They'll get it.  But give them some power too.  Let them know how they can let you know when it's too much.  If you respect the sign, they'll love the power of it.  They may even over-use it at times (but you'll find a balance).  It's fun to have that little secret and the fun will come back for both of you.  Remember, it's all about them and it's about fun.  That's why they play and that's why you should be coaching.  Give yourself an out, and the fun comes back in.

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